Illustrating Equality VS Equity

January 13, 2016 129 Comments


ATTENTION FRIENDS! Can you use the equality vs equity illustration in your book/video/presentation/etc?

Yes! You do not need written permission to reproduce the work. Read below for information on the license under which the illustrations are released.

IISC has long believed that this image, illustrating the difference between equality and equity, is worth a thousand words. As a gift to the world of equity practitioners, IISC engaged artist Angus Maguire to draw a new version of an old favorite (since we could only find pixelated versions of the original). Please feel free to download the high-resolution image and use in your presentations.

Download (.zip package containing JPGs, PDF, PNG, and AI)

Would you like to use this image somewhere?

This image is free to use with attribution: “Interaction Institute for Social Change | Artist: Angus Maguire.” For online use please provide links: and

We love hearing stories about how the image is being used so please get in touch with us and let us know how you used it. We especially enjoy hearing about how this image helps to start conversations about equity and equality. We’re on social media and email ( and

Updates since this article was first published:

20 May 2016: We were notified via Twitter that the original creator of the original graphic wrote a piece cataloging the evolution of the meme. Here’s the piece. It even encompasses our version and a few riffs on it, including our followup collaboration with the Center for Story-Based Strategy & Angus, #the4thbox.

In the News

Cynthia Silva Parker was quoted by Sustainable Cities Network in an article: Infusing Equity into the Urban Planning Process.

What is equity? In the simplest terms, it means fairness, which is not necessarily the same thing as equality.

It’s not about everybody getting the same thing,” Parker said. “It’s about everybody getting what they need in order to improve the quality of their situation.”

One difficulty in including equity goals in planning is that the people who need them most can be hard to involve. Traditionally, planners involve stakeholders by inviting them to public meetings and asking them to read and comment on plans. This can be a time-consuming process, and people who work multiple jobs and lack transportation and child-care options are unlikely to show up at the library for a three-hour meeting.

And even if they’re able to offer their time, they may not be willing.

“Trust is the No. 1 thing, ‘Why are you asking, and will it make a difference,’” Parker said. “When we got started, there was a bit of interesting community jargon: ‘Planning Fatigue.’ People were tired of being asked to come to meetings, asked to share their vision, asked to draw another picture of a beautiful community, and then nothing is going to happen, or it’s going to take 15 years and they’re going to say, ‘We don’t even remember that we were part of that.'”

Public Training Schedule

We hope you will consider enrolling in one of our public trainings this year.

Over the past 25 years, we have developed a lens through which we facilitate social change and we bring it to every engagement. IISC invites groups and leaders to shift power dynamics, focus on building networks, and magnify love as a force for social change. Using this collaborative change lens, we see leaders overcome challenges and have astounding impact.


  • Kwame Diop says:

    Great picture and great message!

  • Attica Scott says:

    Would it be possible to create an image with differently shaded bodies to help reflect the ethnic and racial impacts of equity?

  • satish joshi says:

    Very simple to understand what is justice and equality and how equality does not meet justice some times

  • Ma Waste says:

    I’ve also seen this drawing re-visioned to include girls. We like baseball too. 🙂

  • Wow that illustration / image… Whoa!

  • lk says:

    To funny how you can not just take a message for Something positive. … you have to bring up that there is not girl in the image or different body types. do you want white people in it, but what about Asians, no wait, no this is a baseball game, what about football, more people watch football. STFU already

  • Helen says:

    How come they’re outside the fence instead of in the stands? Why don’t they buy tickets like everyone else?

    • Elaine says:

      I’d like to see this picture of people looking over the fence at something like a beautiful pasture or animals in a zoo. Any kind of people would do. It is not about being excluded from being a spectator in a seat. It is about being able to experience something like any other person would.

    • Falafel says:

      There is a similar illustration showing three options instead of two: Equality (one crate each), Equity (the right amount of crates for each person so everyone sees over the fence), and Liberation (no fence at all). Liberation is much harder to achieve than Equity because it removes the problem altogether and that sometimes isn’t even possible.

      • Adrienne Brugman says:

        I think the Equality, Equity, and Liberation is a much more powerful image and should be promoted on this website rather than the older version.

    • james turner says:


  • professor says:

    it’s important to discuss, not only the artist’s reasoning, but also the implications of taking a popular internet photo and re-creating it with People of Color – – especially since the artist is white. while i understand how “inclusion” gets sticky, it’s irresponsible not to at least reference the original photo (it has white people) and talk about why – in a re-creation to make it not “pixelated” – did the artist choose to make the people non-white. i’m pretty sure making it “not pixelated” doesn’t change the people in the original photo to People of Color. because, after all, if you’re going to keep the photo like the original, but change the race, then why not also include people experiencing disability, gay people, Muslims….and any others who oftentimes do not have access….why change only the race? and, what message is it sending that the artist felt that race was the only thing that needed to be changed? i’m not dissing the photo or the message – but unintended messages and consequences are important things to consider. and, for an organization that boasts talking about social change, then these are the exact conversations you need to be fostering when you post this photo – that’s being a responsible social change activist.

    • Rebel says:

      Dear Professor,
      I think the artist accomplished just what he needed to when reading your comment….in order to achieve Equity over Equality we must change our Perception.. you choose to see and evaluate all that was wrong in this picture as well as all that could have been perceived; as an injustice or misrepresentation of its original form. Instead of focusing on the new message…..thank you

      • professor says:

        that’s too funny – your response, i mean. you clearly don’t understand social justice – or this illustration at all (sans the race issue – just the message). because social justice is about questioning and dismantling in order to seek equity, and a good part of it is about questioning why some have access and others don’t . . . . why we depict something with brown skin versus black skin, poverty versus upper class, gay versus straight – which is what i did; it’s not about pointing out what is wrong . . . . which is NOT what i did. equity vs equality is NOT at all about changing perception….if it were that easy, we’d already be doing it. this illustration is much deeper than that. put your rebel flag away and read up on social justice and equity.

        • JoeKomagawa says:

          You appear to be making an assumption that the reader cannot generalize equity, from a limited set of various conditions. Why?

    • Falafel says:

      About race: it doesn’t exist. Only in your imagination. Racism is VERY real, but not race. It’s been scientifically proven that if you took the genomes of a white person and a black person, there would be as much difference between them genetically as there would be between two white people. Also, skin color depends on the amount of melanin in the skin, and that amount is affected by three or four genes AND the environment in which you live.

  • Jonathan Washburn says:

    Just a few observations on the illustration:

    1. While it does illustrate equity, it only works if the participants are truly of different heights. I do not subscribe to this notion as it relates to the subject at hand.

    2. The illustration depicts the “taller” individual willingly giving of what he has, which is the nature of enlightened people. It does not illustrate a representative of a police state forcibly taking the property of one person to distribute it to another, which would be the goal of a liberal government.

    • Chris says:

      I would wish that the Republicans Governor of the State of Michigan had been more “enlightened” as you say. Where is the equity in cutting taxes for the rich, while failing to deliver clean water to the people of Flint? If ever there was a case that the billionaires of the country are NOT interested in equity, it is the situation in Flint. They would rather line their own pockets with tax cuts than provide the equity of clean water for all!

    • Rebel says:

      Your analysis is dutifully noted. So when are we going to give the Native American “Indians” back their land?

      • Falafel says:

        It might be too late because there are so many cities in the country that they wouldn’t get all of it–in fact, it’s possible they would be deprived of quite a lot–unless force people out of their homes and tear down some cities.

  • Csense says:

    And then the purple baby jumped for joy when she could see the game better. Now that the baby could see better she demanded to the blue shirt dad how come he didn’t get them a seat in the stands. That wasn’t fair. Why should they stand on the box when there are other kids her age are sittin, eating hot dogs at the seats. The dad, who just minutes back thought he made it equitable, now understood that with whiny kids, it is un winnable. And in the exact moment, the purple baby fell down from the unstable box and bumped her head. The baby ended up fine but the doctors referred the social services who considered this as willful neglect on the part of dad. The mom, who already had beef with the dad divorced him. But she didn’t have enough to provide for the baby and the alimony wasn’t covering much as well. So, the baby ended moving from home to home at the mercy of strangers and at the whims of the social service providers.

    • Rebel says:

      Beautifully narrated, to bad the purple baby didn’t understand that this was her first look at systematic oppression. That questioning the injustice of her disposition would open pandoras’ box. Little did she know that being purple was a threat. So they cut her off from her identity by separating her from her parents.This was necessary in order to deter her thirst for equality. They condition her to believe that this was the only way because now she was a potential threat to their plans. So they stragically cut her off from her identity using the system as their tool. They threw her into poverty and try to strip her of her self-worth. But see the purple baby was special, the melanin in her made her unique. She was design to persevere, to overcome, and to lead. And even though the purple baby was setup to fail, the purple baby left them all scrabbling wondering where they went wrong….when she became the First Lady of The United States of America….the end

  • Erik says:

    True equity or even equality would mean they could join the others in the seats in the stadium.

  • Dynisha Harrison says:

    Having a child with peanut allergies and seeing the illustration, I saw my child watching a baseball game from outside the stadium because there are not any accommodations inside which would allow her to watch without being expose to peanuts so I didn’t see the equity or equality.

    • Falafel says:

      Have you ever heard of SunButter? It’s like peanut butter, but it’s made from sunflower seeds. They also make Reese’s-style chocolate treats with the SunButter inside. They’re really tasty.

  • Gretchen McMullen says:

    The issue is if you use the metaphor of a starting line in a race, and all of the runners line up on the same stRting line, you may have equality in the sense if the same chance to run the race, but you won’t have equity That is because if you ignore the history of racism and unequal opportunity leading up to the day if the race, then it really isn’t an ‘equal’ chance to run and win because the privileged white runners will be better trained and stronger and more experienced etc
    adding the extra boxes so the smaller figures can see over the fence is the equivalent of giving the disadvantaged runners a 50 yard lead or an early start. As in education with an admissions preference This is where things fall apart in America though You can give a preference to Betersns or disabled people but if you give any sort of leg up or benefit to black people it’s shouted down as special treatment. The image is meant to show the simply declaring that now we are all equal and each standing on the same box or the same starting line is not enough

  • Crystal says:

    This illustration feels like the way they see affirmative action seeing some as needing to take more resources than others to be equal. A direct result of their own short comings. More accurate is everyone is the same height it is the fence or barrier which is of different height and material. It denies some access despite the same effort and equity deals with the barriers which are created by society not genetics.

  • Ben says:

    Equity should be employed with a view to achieve equality in the end, if that is at all possible. Equity should not attempt to achieve equal outcomes for all by fully compensating individual differences. In other words, equity should not nullify the benefits of competition. Ideally, equitable arrangements should aim to bring everyone to a minimum required level, while keeping some room for further differentiation based on merit-based competition.

  • Dave Neill says:

    A useful illustration if just for the many questions it raises — some of which are captured well in the comments portion of this article.

  • When did it become fashionable to pit equity against equality? Equity and equality go hand in hand and advocates should work together. The cartoon is divisive and misinformed. The cartoonist should stick to cartooning and leave equity and equality to others. The cartoon builds a straw man concept of equality as formal mathematical identity n=n to refute an argument that nobody is making. Formal mathematical identity does not mean not moral equality or equal justice. Aristotle recognized that equality means treating similar things similarly and different things differently. The children are different heights and need different boxes for equality in the justice sense. End of argument.

    Using equity to trash equality denigrates the rich, nuanced conception of equality embedded in equal justice, the Equal Protection Clause, equal rights, and other basic principles that go beyond formal mathematical identity n=n.

    Equal justice treats different things differently. For example, if government draws distinctions based on fundamental rights or race, color, or national, the distinctions generally must be narrowly crafted to serve a compelling state interest. This is strict scrutiny. Distinctions based on gender or sex must be substantially related to further an important government interest – that is intermediate scrutiny. Economic distinctions generally need to be rationally related to a legitimate government interest – that is rational basis scrutiny.

    Equity is generally undefined and provides no basis for evaluating distinctions based on race, gender, age, or income, for example. Equity may be a useful complement to equality arguments in some contexts.

    There is uniform agreement on moral equality or equal justice among thoughtful observers. Fundamental equality means that persons are alike in important relevant and specified respects alone, and not that they are all generally the same or can be treated in the same way. Moral equality can be understood as prescribing treatment of persons as equals, i.e., with equal concern and respect, and not the often implausible principle of treating persons with mathematical equally. This fundamental idea of equal respect for all persons and of the equal worth or equal dignity of all human beings is accepted as a minimal standard by all leading schools of modern Western political and moral culture. Any political theory abandoning this notion of equality will not be found plausible today.

    • Terry says:

      A case of over-analysis. See the obvious meaning and go with it. Avoid confirmational bias in semantics.

      • Dubitator says:

        Classical humanism and the idea behind it that most impacted our faith: ad fontes.
        In order to learn how to think – rather than what to think.

    • Falafel says:

      What the heck are you talking about?!?!?!?!?! Everyone getting different things to suit their needs is EQUITY, NOT EQUALITY, and THEY DO NOT GO HAND IN HAND!!!!!!!!!! It is ESSENTIAL to put a little more research into these types of things before making a comment that long. It is so incredibly biased and ungrounded that I considered commenting tips on how to make an argument that people will agree with.

  • OneObservation says:

    Wow. I clearly don’t have the depth of many of the commenters.

    I didn’t see people of color , gender, or other categorizations. I saw three people with the same challenge (seeing an event) and a reminder that if we all looked to our left and to our right (directionally, not politically) and share what we have extra of what we have (time, money, knowledge, love), we can help others with their challenges.

    Is the directive “if a man has two coats…” so conceptually distant from “from each according to their ability”?

    The answer is obvious in this picture. The real world challenge is that to meet everyone’s expectations for a equilibrium point, we need more than two coats or three boxes. The expectations of modern societies exceed the resources available and we have to temper expectations (across the spectrum).

    • Falafel says:

      Actually that is on the same level of thought as most, if not all, of the other people who have (and/or will) comment. Give yourself a pat on the back.

  • Khaldoun Dekmak says:

    I have always believed this and argued with my female friends trying to prove it. If we look at reality, we will find that there is not a single country in the whole world that gives fathers a paternity leave equal in days to the maternity leave when a new baby is born. This is Justice vs. Equality. It’s not fair or just, on the other hand, to oblige women to be soldiers when 18 for 2 years like men … etc.

  • JaD says:

    Actually, equity would have someone with a hole dug in the ground to take away from their hard work. This picture makes equity look nice and all, but when people aren’t motivated to succeed, then innovation takes a heavy hit. I love what a lot of European countries do with their education and healthcare, but they are now struggling with too many people on welfare, and not enough innovators, because taxes take too much away from those who put in effort and give too much to those who sit around doing nothing.

    So, in essence, the picture needs holes dug in the ground to show all the people who are having stuff taken from them to build the mounds for others to stand on. In other words: those who work hard and get nothing from it just to lift up those who are lazy and not willing to put in the effort needed to succeed.

  • Cody says:

    All three are equally STEALING from the baseball team. Their combined equity to rip someone off will cause the poor guy selling tickets and the single mother working in the concession stand to eventually lose their jobs.

    • Falafel says:

      But what if the three people couldn’t afford tickets or they were all sold out?! Then they didn’t have a choice, except not watching. (But this is a hypothetical situation in which we don’t consider the possibility that the even does not occur at all for the people being focused on.) Anyway. Yeah. They might not have been able to get tickets for one reason or another.

  • Alex Napier says:

    What a horrible, ghastly and authoritarian image!

    Each person had to build their own box and buy the parts for it, but one was taken away by the man on the left via threat of violence or imprisonment!

    You get my point. This is a terrible and limited analogy, which is reliant on the idea that boxes are cheap and easy to find. Also, that he is a father, who has a duty of care to his kids.

    It’s utterly meaningless when attempting to compare peers and when the boxes are metaphors for ability and work ethic.

    Very, very silly nonsense.

    • Falafel says:

      It’s literally just a hypothetical situation. It is symbolicly representing a real-world challenge, but it has a specific purpose and meaning, and I think that if you don’t care about the purpose/meaning, you should buzz off before you offend someone else. Sorry if that seemed rude; I’m a very passionate person and a justice-fighter. Literally.

      • James says:

        Come on man. Alex has a point. The image assumes that everyone could easily see the game, but it’s not an either/or situation. In reality it is a spectrum (such as if we talk about income). All of us view justice myopically, so none of us can be the arbiter of what’s just. Better to let everyone guide their own lives.

  • Hadar Dohn says:

    I love this! I have translated it to Hebrew and used it at my school. I hope that it is ok to share with others (ugh, after the fact, I already shared it with Jewish educators around the globe) I’d love to send you the image that I’ve used with the Hebrew. where can I upload a link?
    Thank you! The artwork is beautiful and the image is powerful. Even the first/second graders got the message of fairness.

    • Lawrence says:

      Hi Hadar, we LOVE that you took the liberty to do this (and it’s SO good to hear that young children understood the meaning)!

      The original cartoon is not ours and we adapted it with the full-intention of providing the design files so that others could adapt it, too! Please email our Communications team ( and someone will be in touch with you about getting a link to the graphic (and hopefully even the graphic itself) posted here.

      Thank YOU for taking this gift and running with it!

  • Cassidy Paulson says:

    How can I cite this lovely picture in APA format in a Concept Analysis paper?

    • Falafel says:

      I’ve only cited anything for an essay so I don’t know but maybe someone will come along and answer this for the next person who has this same question.

  • Mary says:

    How about the little guy, accepting that he’s shorter and needs an extra box (hey I can relate – I’m shorter than 5′), goes and gets another box (maybe having to get more education to learn how to acquire boxes, or work a second job) rather than standing and sulking waiting for the tall guy to give him his box (which he worked hard to acquire). Maybe the short guy can even eventually rise above the other two and brag about his view. Life is not fair and there are many things we can’t control. But we need to take responsibility for the things we can. It sucks but the fact is some people will have to work twice as hard to get to the same place as others but they nevertheless get there. There are countless examples.

    • Falafel says:

      Yes. Great point. Except… the point, I think, was to convey that some people don’t have the means to get what they need and that includes the time and energy to get a second job, in which case the proud, priveleged, and horribly oblivious white people come in, refusing to give up their box (money/food/etc.) that they don’t even need.

  • Emmy says:

    It is all well. The picture serves the purpose in the context in which it is situated – which is to differentiate between equality and equity inspite of the natural barriers to real equity in a world inhabited by equally selfish creatures.

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    • Falafel says:

      Ok, if anyone else feels this way, here’s the gist:
      Everyone has one life goal in common, right? To thrive, financially, emotionally, and physically. But, not everyone can get the things they need to meet this goal. People who DO have what they need–privileged white people–do not understand this, and think that giving everyone the same thing *equality* is what will make the goal easier for everyone to reach. But because some people need more resources than others, they have specific needs. If these specific needs aren’t met, they will survive, but they may not thrive.
      Meeting everyone’s individual needs *equity* will make the goal easier to reach, because there aren’t as many obstacles as there were. Note, and this is essential to understand, that I did not say ALL obstacles. There will still be some.
      There is a third option, but it is much harder to do. Removing the initial problem altogether *liberation* would mean that nobody has specific needs to be met. HOWEVER, there’s the catch of the problem is eliminated completely. In an ideal world, poverty wouldn’t exist in the first place. But this is a far less than perfect world, and so some barriers can’t even be scratched.
      Lot’s of information, here’s the summary: equality gives everyone the same thing, but equity gives everyone what they as individuals (or in other terms, families, ethnic groups, etc) need. Liberation eliminates problems altogether, and is therefore much harder to reach. Equity is better because not everyone needs the same thing, and so equality is not the right option.

      • Shae says:

        You can’t be serious. No, everyone does NOT have one life goal in common. Not even a little bit. But, even if they did, no two journeys would be the same. Which is why “equity” is a problem. Giving Frank (who had no desire to work and earn anything and was perfectly content to waste what he was given) resource after resource in order to have an equal quality of life as Stan (who was given zero resources because he was ambitious and acquired what he needed on his own) is absolutely disgusting. In fact, seeing Stan succeed will not motivate Frank to work harder, he gets it handed to him. Stan will see that he doesn’t have to work hard because why should he? Stan can just be lazy and get things handed to him for free, too. The biggest problem with that, though, is that nothing is free. Someone is always paying for it. It’s theft. Everyone loses.

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  • KDrew says:

    It would have been better with the third image – liberation – with no fence at all blocking the viewers, or even chairs for everyone, or even folks that are seated in the stadium. this image doesn’t go far enough.

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  • Connie says:

    No time to read through all the responses so perhaps this has been put forward already; but I came across this similar meme and thought it addressed some of the issues even more thoroughly, that is to say, by addressing the inequity involved the props might not be needed at all — and all of the individuals (though in this depiction are “white” or “pink skinned”) have the barriers out of the way and all can enjoy the ballgame in safety and relative comfort.

    I think the general reality is that each of the children “could have been depicted differently” so as to create the visual of inequity regardless of “race/color/disability”…

    I rather like it however… it seems the bandaids are no longer required. Let’s be realistic-the fence is protection – and we all still need that (regardless of who we are). We all have one or more dis-ability; physical, emotional, financial, long-term, short-term… and in many cases, people need that hand up.

    It is in how we deal with the truest of issues — working with the actual diagnosis, rather than pretending there is no issue, no dis-ability (yes, I’m putting the “dash”in there deliberately) that determines the outcome.

    We can say the same about the issues our government is facing. Too many bandaids, not enough cleaning up the actual wound so it can heal and the country be whole again. We have these huge infections, and it’s about time we shoveled the tonics, scraped the dirt off and got some real health back into our system.

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  • Virginia Dahlitz says:

    Hi, thank you for allowing the images to be used freely. I am using the image in my PhD regarding equity, justice and change in environmental impact assessment.

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  • jfiidyeufhgdy says:

    All people in the cartoon are the same age… all 3 have been admitted into a Physics undergrad program….
    The tall person has an IQ = 125
    The middle size person has an IQ = 100
    The short person has an IQ = 75
    The tall person gets 1 hour to take exams…
    The medium person gets 1 + 1 = 2 hours to take exams
    The short person gets 1 + 2 = 3 hours to take exams
    How is this ‘equitable’ in any way? By letting ‘anyone’ into the program the tall man’s naturally endowed characteristics are devalued—-the natural characteristics of the other two are ‘inflated’. Nobody asked to be short or tall. The best human intentions cannot ‘outdesign the way things are naturally’.

    • John Thorpe says:

      This depiction is individualism. Re-conceptualise to a society which is cooperative and collective. Create examinations based on collectivity and cooperation, allow teams to answer the examination. Isn’t that how life is post-education? Change the structures to achieve equity.

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  • Patrick Case says:

    Dear Folk:

    I’m glad that you left space for people to comment. I’ve always had concerns about the diagram as presented. In Canada, Equality Rights are entrenched in Section 15 of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. All of the legal writers and thinkers and all of our courts and tribunals understand Equality to mean both ‘formal’ and ‘substantive’ 1989, in its very first case on S15, the Supreme Court of Canada said that the Equality Rights section imparts ‘substantive’ equality.

    The notion of ‘equality’ as presented in the diagram, depicts an example of ‘formal’ equality or treating like things alike. It was understood in 1989 that this treating like things alike can, as is depicted in the diagram, result in the most perverse injustices. It was further understood that the sort of solution presented in the second panel constitutes ‘substantive equality’ NOTE not equity.

    By saying that ‘equality’ is bad and that it is to be contrasted to ‘equity’ the diagram fails to take into account ‘substantive’ equality. In attempting to devise solutions that would result in providing an even playing field for all, none of the legal thinkers or writer and no tribunal member or judge has ever elucidated an idea of ‘equity’ as being opposed to ‘equality’.

    To summarize, the equation presented is the diagram has no basis in law and has no basis in the thinking or writing of people who work in equality rights. It’s just patently wrong.

  • Brenda says:

    I am aware of this pictures popularity to illustrate the concept of equity and equality. But, I am not a fan. My first reaction was, “why are these people behind the fence?” Why are they not sitting in the stands with the rest of the people.

    To better express equity and equality, I like the image of a person wearing prescription eyeglasses better. When a single person requires eyeglasses to improve their quality of vision, we don’t issue everyone else on the planet a pair of glasses as well- they do not need them.
    The prescribed glasses doesn’t give the person wearing them an edge over non-eyeglass-wearing folks. It only makes them equal to them.

  • David Fonseca says:

    But, …the kids are still outside the park, on the other side of the fence! Boxes or no boxes they are not included, – …not even in the cheap seats?

    Yes, as an educator I do realize the purpose of the rendition, to create an understanding of equality and equity, but they are still outside the fence. Is it a start? …maybe. But if the bar is set to “outside” then outside is all we will achieve.

    Thank you,

    David Fonseca
    Assistant Superintendent of Schools
    Burke County Public Schools
    Morganton, NC

  • Rebecca Eutermoser says:

    If people stop over thinking and take this photo exactly as it is then they’d appreciate it a lot more. My 7 year old understood the basic principle- shouldn’t be too hard for adults.

    I used it as an example for my daughter as to why she’s treated differently and held to a higher standard than my ASD son. Her version of “fair” is on the left at her age- it was helpful to explain why I have different expectations. She finally understood and knows that I’m not playing favorites and love her just as much as her sibling. Thank you!

  • Fredrick Kaddu says:

    The picture says to me that even there in reality there is no such thing as Equality, society should do there level best to see to it that the playing field is leveled so everyone can have an opportunity to rise as high as they wish in life. Thanks!

  • Dan Greer says:

    What if the tall man worked hard for his box? Is it “fair” to say his work shouldn’t be compensated equally with the work of others? Let’s make a comparison. We require less work for short one to have enough boxes in this instance. We can’t do that in every instance though. Eventually, accustomed to a lower level of work for more boxes, he will feel like everything is stacked against him when he doesn’t measure up elsewhere. Compare this to affirmative action. Fewer blacks are graduating college now than before affirmative action programs. Those admitted with lower standards don’t go on to be successful in college. Admissions isn’t just a sorting mechanism. It gauges someone’s readiness to handle the workload of a university. It doesn’t help to give someone boxes when it only stunts their growth. (Excuse the limitations of the drawing in this real-world comparison)

  • Justin BlindLove says:

    Real life is not like watching a baseball game but reaching for food. Imagine that there is a tall tree full of fruits and there were three hungry people like the ones in the picture. It is only that all crates have to be put under the tallest person that they could reach the fruits. Otherwise they would all starve to death. What would you do? This is the reality today: to make enough progress for the whole human race, we need to put enough resources under small number of “tallest” people. Think about it, who benefited the most from the mass production of automobiles. Was it the rich, who already owned several horse carriages, or the general public, who had to walk by foot?

  • Larry N. Baker says:

    The fallacy of this picture is the lack of distinction between equal opportunities and equal assistance. Also, regarding a cause-and-effect timeline, Equality is on the front-end, and Equity is on the resultant-end.

    The equal-height boxes would be Equal Assistance [one size fits all] but not Equal Opportunities [i.e., Equality]. (No one is “more equal” than another!)
    The unequal-height boxes would be Equal Opportunities [Equality on the front-end, so all 3 CAN see], that could bring about Equal Outcomes [i.e., Equity, so that all 3 WILL see].
    Otherwise, if the shortest one insists on closing his eyes, there would not be Equal Outcomes [i.e., Equity, since only 1 or 2 are seeing]. (Equity may opt to force.)

    Of late college quotas do not give equal opportunities based on merit only but based on ethnic and gender characteristics. However, colleges have always sought and still seek to give equal opportunity along with unequal assistance, be it financial help with tuition or extra tutoring or physical/mental disability arrangements. Colleges give out different-height boxes with equal opportunity.

  • Tom Nankivell says:

    This conversation highlights some of the ambiguities and different understandings around the ideas of equality and equity.
    The different sized boxes are, as Larry N. Baker said, about ‘equal assistance’. They lead to an ‘equality of outcome’ in the picture, but only because all the individuals shown are putting in the same effort – ie they are all standing up (rather than sitting). Were one of the people choosing to just sit on their box, the person would be unable to see – but this would not be inequitable, just an unequal otcome.
    As an economist, my understanding of equity is that it involves a value judgment about the desert or merit of different people. Thus, (under certain commonly-held value judgments), someone who doesn’t “try” as hard as another would not deserve the same rewards (in this case, the same view). Indeed, giving such people an equal outcome (for example, giving them a higher box that allows them to sit and see) would, in that case, be INequitable!

  • Elly says:

    Dear All, The picture doesn’t show equity as it doesn’t include girls/women. In its current version it is similar to this one where the religious/ethnic diversity of India is intended to be shown but it only shows men:


  • Indrani says:

    Nice post

  • mark peterson says:

    Why is there a fence?
    Why are they on the outside?

  • M. O. says:

    Here’s another variation. A bit gruesome, but the underlying point — that in the name of equity sometimes the result is everyone suffers (or perhaps put another way, “If everyone can’t enjoy or benefit from X, then nobody will get it.).

    (Link removed for graphic depictions of violence)

  • Bill says:

    Wondering how does this concept applies to the athletes on the field considering genetics is a massive factor.

  • beylikdüzü masaj salonu says:

    Appreciate your perspective. Looking forward to more posts!

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